Even consistently dominant pitchers like Steffanie Redmon aren’t always immune to nerves.
They began rushing in when she stepped into the circle before the seventh inning of Wednesday’s Region 7-3A championship game. The senior had permitted a run in the previous frame, cutting East Hall High’s lead to just one run late in the game.
“I was thinking about just pitching strikes and pitching with all I had to get those last three outs,” Redmon said. “I knew this was the last time I would have a chance to pitch my team to a region championship.”
After experiencing that feeling last year, she figured she might as well do it again.
Redmon notched two of her 11 strikeouts in the final inning to help the Lady Vikings clinch the region title and a No. 1 playoff seed with a 2-1 win against Greater Atlanta Christian at East Hall Park in Gainesville. Abigail Brown and Macy Banks each drove in a run on back-to-back hits in the third inning before Redmon quelled the Lady Spartans’ late rally.
“Words can’t describe how it feels,” Redmon said. “I didn’t know I’d be pitching in a region championship again, and to get the win as a senior is just amazing.”
East Hall (18-9) successfully defended the championship after claiming the program’s first-ever region crown last year. Redmon and Lady Vikings coach Josh Joiner agreed this one was sweeter, though.
“We were the No. 1 seed in the region tournament this year instead of being No. 3 and sneaking up on people like we did last year,” Joiner said. “Now everyone wants to beat East Hall and gets up to play us. That made things different not just today, but throughout the whole year. The pressure was on us now.”
That seemed evident throughout the day, which the Lady Vikings began with a 7-5 win against Lumpkin County High in the semifinals. Joiner said the game was sloppy all around, but he was pleased with how his team “ferociously” bounced back to take control of the contest.
Redmon said she and her teammates discussed cleaning up their play during the layover between the semifinals and championship game.
“We sat down for a while and talked about not playing lackadaisical,” the Brenau University commit said. “We knew teams were here to beat us.”
Greater Atlanta Christian (14-10) had several chances to do just that, but Redmon stranded nine runners to make up for the seven hits she allowed. She left a pair on the basepaths in the opening frame, which featured a nifty throwout at the plate by second baseman Kaitlyn Daniel, and escaped the second inning with a runner standing on third base.
Redmon tried to aid her cause in the bottom of the first inning by crushing a double, the first of two balls she rocketed that fell just short of the left field wall.
“I thought that one was gone,” she said with a grin.
East Hall finally broke through in the third inning, though the opportunity almost didn’t happen. Center fielder Carley Cox was originally ruled out at second base on a fielder’s choice, but the umpires ultimately determined the Lady Spartans’ infielder was off the bag.
Brown immediately followed with a hard-hit RBI single that glanced off the glove of Greater Atlanta Christian’s diving shortstop. Banks, who pitched in the Lady Vikings’ semifinal victory, then poked an opposite-field single to give her team a 2-0 lead after three innings.
Redmon shook off trouble again in the fifth before surrendering her lone run in the next frame. Three of the first four hitters she faced recorded a hit — including a run-scoring single by Grace Grant — prompting a mound visit from Joiner with runners on the corners and only one out.
“Most of the time, I come out to calm everybody down and give them a little perspective,” the coach said. “I told them we had no reason to panic. I think they needed to hear that.”
Redmon retired the next two batters via a fielder’s choice and flyout. Despite the game being on the line and a double-digit game-winner in Banks available for the save, Joiner never considered pulling Redmon for the final three outs.
“I am 1,000 percent confident in Steffanie,” he said. “ … She was a warrior today.”
The senior pitcher breezed through the seventh inning to lock up East Hall’s region title and top playoff seed. The Lady Vikings hope that momentum can carry them to the eight-team state championship tournament in Columbus, a goal they fell one round short of last season.
East Hall begins the playoffs with a best-of-three series against East Jackson High, the fourth seed out of Region 8-3A, on Oct. 11 in Gainesville.
North Hall High enters the postseason as the No. 3 seed from Region 7-3A and will travel to face an opponent to be determined in the first round. The Lady Trojans fell to Greater Atlanta Christian 14-1 in the semifinals before beating Lumpkin County 8-1 in the third-place game.